Once you train your eye to look, it is not hard to find that the world is rife with injustices both great and small. One goal of this course is to prompt students to consider thinking about these moments of injustice within their larger contexts, and to see them in places that previously went unacknowledged. These can be illustrations of implicit bias you see, structures of power that create inequities that you notice, everyday cultural discourse you hear that contributes to social unfairness, or something else.
Starting this week, you will write in a “diary” recording instances of systemic injustice you witness in your day-to-day life or in the global news. You should describe the phenomenon you witnessed or read about as well as any additional research you did to understand what was happening, then analyze it according to the course concepts we are discussing. What impact does it have? How did you distinguish this as systemic injustice? What categories of identity were in play? What would need to change for this wrong to be righted? Be sure to focus on impact of the phenomenon you chose (rather than the personal intent of the participants).
If you’re not sure where to start, you can always start backward from a big concept to a local example. I’d recommend considering the phenomena mentioned in our modules as inspiration. For example, if you learn something new about US immigration policies or problems in ethnographic studies, you can look for an effect of that phenomenon within your daily experience (maybe your neighbor immigrated to the US, maybe there’s a recent ethnographic study you encountered) or in the global news (where are refugee crises happening in the world, what prompted them, what policies have other governments implemented, etc.).
This assignment will serve as an extended brainstorming activity for your upcoming podcast assignment, so you’ll want to choose examples you feel strongly about, and that are complex enough for further inquiry should you choose.
Still confused about what types of situations could make good material for a Diary of Systemic Injustices entry? Consider the following student examples from last week (well done, Apil Sanyashi and Kaleb Baldwin!):
Within the last few years, the Scranton School District has let go of almost a hundred teachers, ended multiple after-school programs, and removed countless recreational courses from its curriculum. Unfortunately, this is not a rare sight to see. Urban schools from Chicago to Atlanta have been facing budget cuts for decades. On the other hand, many school districts across the country, primarily those that reside in suburban neighborhoods, have been able to provide their students with limitless access to technology, clubs, counselors, and up-to-date textbooks. But why is this happening? Why are some public schools so much more equipped to teach their students than others? Well, the root cause behind the inequality in America’s public schools is funding. More specifically, the source of funding for public schools. According to Alana Semuels of the Atlantic public schools garner most of their funding from poverty taxes collected by local cities, not the state or federal government. This creates a massive wealth discrepancy in public schools as school districts that are based near wealthier neighborhoods receive more funding compared to school districts placed in high poverty neighborhoods. At the heart of an unequal public school system lies an unequal distribution of opportunity. An unequal distribution that tends to disproportionately harm minority students. Linda Darling-Hammond from the Brookings Institute writes that minority students receive significantly less instructional resources than other students. A study that spanned 900 Texas school districts showed that a large majority of the academic variance shown in minority students was a direct result of insufficient access to resources. Moreover, the inequality that exists in the public school system spans far beyond the twelve years a student spends with their k-12 education. It holds implicit costs such as lost opportunities for many minority students who were never allowed to excel or explore an academic, recreational, or trade field. Fields that may have provided multiple students the opportunity to escape poverty. The solution to this problem isn’t one-dimensional. Each school district faces different challenges that depend on things such as its location or demographic. However, if the federal government or at the very least the state government was able to conduct a thorough analysis of the necessary resources each student should be provided with and distributed funds accordingly. It would be a strong step toward ending inequality in the public school system and providing opportunities for many low-income students.
Semuels, Alana. “Good School, Rich School; Bad School, Poor School.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 13 June 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/08/property-taxes-and-unequal-schools/497333/. (Links to an external site.)
Darling-Hammond, Linda. “Unequal Opportunity: Race and Education.” Brookings, Brookings, 28 July 2016, https://www.brookings.edu/articles/unequal-opportunity-race-and-education/. (Links to an external site.)
Or you might just scan the headlines for global news, especially in the areas we’re studying each week. Is there a legacy of of systemic injustice still operating now? Do the context presentations or readings help you see a pattern or resonance?
Your weekly entries must each cover a different example (if you are covering a major developing local story, like an ongoing controversy in your neighborhood, contact your TA about permission to write about it more than once. Otherwise, choose a new topic each week). They should clearly describe the incident and what you identify as the injustices and/or power inequities at play.
- about 250 words
- Submitted via Carmen assignments as either uploaded documents or direct text entry
- Due at the end of each class week (Saturdays) in weeks 4-10 as indicated in the syllabus and the modules, for six total entries. you can work ahead on these if you choose, but it’s best to wait for some feedback if you’re unsure about this assignment.